The Junior League of the Emerald Coast recently held its 40th annual Child Clothing Project. The event took place Tuesday and Wednesday and benefited nearly 400 kids in Okaloosa and Walton counties.

DESTIN — A local women’s group recently spent two days giving nearly 400 needy kids “the attention other children might get on a daily basis.”


This week marked the 40th annual Child Clothing Project organized by the Junior League of the Emerald Coast. The event took place at the Target on Harbor Boulevard and was made possible by a year of fundraising, said Colleen Weinschenker, chairwoman of the event.


“It is a lot of hard work and a lot of organizing on the front end, but so incredibly rewarding to know that all of those kids have what they need, and those guidance councilors have a little bit of support,” she said.


The roughly 400 students from more than 30 elementary schools across Walton and Okaloosa counties received a free lunch, short sleeve T-shirt, long sleeve T-shirt, pants, jacket, a pair of shoes, book and full toiletry bag.


“We just want it to be a really fun and enjoyable day,” said Susan Costabile, a member of the group who help organize the event.


Costabile spent the days passing out shoes to each kid.


“It’s amazing — the excitement, the joy that they have over having their own pair of brand new shoes and not hand-me-downs,” she said.


With the help of a discount from Target, the organization spent about $100 on each kid.


"The event is held there because we want them to really feel like they are shopping, and that it’s not just pre-bought,“ Costabile said. "They actually get to pick their own items out.“


According to Weinschenker, the Junior League is a century-old institution for “like minded women to come together and have a direct and positive impact on (their) communities.”


About 40 years ago, the group decided to dub the Child Clothing Project as its keystone event.


“The junior league realized that there were a lot of children in our community who didn’t have what they needed to be successful,” she said.


A handful of local organizations also attended the event. One was the Destin Fire Control District.


“What’s special about (the Junior League) is how many kids they reach,” Captain Mike Landis said. “They raise money year round for this event (and) do a fantastic job of finding vendors that fit them and that help them. ... They’re just very passionate.”


He added that the project is the perfect opportunity to teach kids — ones that they otherwise might not reach — about fire safety.


“We’re just there to entertain and talk about the truck and what we do,” Landis said.


Looking ahead, the Junior League of the Emerald Coast is gearing up to host its biggest fundraiser of the year — Best of the Emerald Coast.


The festival will be held at the Grand Boulevard from 6-9 p.m. Saturday. Participants will be able to sample different local vendors, all voted “the best of” various categories.


Proceeds will benefit next year’s Child Clothing Project, along with a separate mission that works to cloth needy middle and high school students.


Tickets cost $50 and can be purchased at the event or on 850tix.com.


“It’s basically like a big street party,” Weinschenker said. “You get to come and sample all the ’best of’ items.”